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  • Colleen O'Brien, DVM, CVA

The Tooth of the Matter: The importance of your pet's dental health


Dog dental care

Dental health is just as important in our pets as it is in ourselves.

In the human dental world, you are expected to brush your teeth at least twice a day, use mouthwash, and floss at least once a day. When was the last time your pet flossed or used mouth wash? I'm guessing never. And if they have, I want to see a video of it. When is the last time you brushed your pet's teeth? The answer to that may also be never. So it makes sense that occasionally you need to have your pet's teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering your pets dental care.


Brushings

Ideally you should brush your pet's teeth every day with pet safe toothpaste. Toothpaste for pets comes in a multitude of flavors. Choose the one your pet likes the best. As for the tooth brush, you might use an actual brush, a rubber thimble, or a dental cloth. Again, pick the one your pet tolerates the best.


Professional cleanings

Professional cleanings are done under anesthesia. If you have had your teeth cleaned, you know it's not exactly a pleasant experience. And to really evaluate those back molars and do a sufficient job of cleaning under the gums where most of the disease is, your pet needs to be under anesthesia.




These two dogs happened to come in for dental cleanings on the same day. They were both 5 year old, 12 lb. dachshund x chihuahuas.

The dog in the top photo has never had any dental care. The dog in the bottom photo has had routine annual dental prophylaxis since he was 18 months (when the calculus was already building up).






Age

Age itself is not a disease. I don't want to hear that you don't want to do a dental because your pet is 10 years old. If their blood work is good and their overall health is good, do the dental. Their teeth are only going to get worse over time and if they develop a disease in a year or two, such as heart failure, you won't be able to do anything about the teeth then.


Extractions

If your vet says your pet needs teeth pulled, it's because they do. Have you heard the phrase pulling teeth? It means something is hard. We don't enjoy extractions. We do it because it is better for your pet to have a missing tooth than to have a painful loose, rotting, infected tooth. Pets will also do just fine without a tooth or two, or even all of them! They are very adaptive creatures.



Here's what a broken incisor (the tiny teeth in front) from a Pitbull looks like after extraction.






Homeopathic Care

Most of the time I'll toss in an acupuncture plug. This is not one of those cases. Acupuncture can help with temporary pain, but most animals also don't tolerate needles in their faces well. Acupuncture can help your pet get to their dental appointment, but they need more advanced care. Just like aspirin and antibiotics would help but not fix the problem of a rusty nail in your hand, acupuncture won't change the infection in your pet's mouth that has been brewing for months to years.



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